It's a sign of humane writing that, as the final leg of Breaking Bad boils down to arrests, gun fights, and plans of ultimate undoing, Vince Gilligan is still interested in sparking some new romances: Todd and Lydia. We open this week on the post-Heisenberg Era meth lab, finding a team of neo Nazis (who, say what you will about their ideologies, sure know how to land a pop culture reference) failing to satisfy a didactic Lydia Rodarte-Quayle with a 76% product that isn't even blue.
It's the blue that the kids in Bratislava really go nuts for.
After apologizing to Lydia for a subpar cook and promising to do better next time — honest he will! — Todd flashes her a look imbued with the sincere intensity that you can only garner from a Grade A stalker, caressing the lipstick stain on her tea mug once she's gone. We might add that some Diana Rossy-sounding romantic pop was playing over whatever sound system is hooked up in a meth lab all the while.
So what the hell is up with this paritcuarly jarring way to start the fourth-to-last episode of Breaking Bad? Is the show foreshadowing a frenzy in which Todd avenges Lydia against his gun-toting relatives, or Walt himself? Is Gilligan just trying to set up a new power couple? Since Walt and Skyler have dissolved to subhuman, Jesse and Andrea are split, and Hank and Marie are… well, we can pretty much predict nothing but gloom for them after this episode… Loddia might be the new subject for those fanatical shippers.
Or maybe we're just meant to be reminded that Todd is simply a weird dude. The glare of jealousy that he musters when Walt refers to Jesse as "family" signals some corrosive pain… even though the mention comes when Walt is ordering a hit on the kid! Todd, the dutiful student and teller of train stories, just wants everybody to love him. So, that's probably going to erupt into some serious crazy pretty soon.
Jesse's plan kicks into gear pretty flawlessly, tempting Walt to lead him to the site of the buried money by tricking him into thinking he has already found it — with a manipulated Huell (and man do I love when this show introduces its longstanding characters' surnames for the first time — is it Babineaux?) giving them a few hints about what Mr. White did with all the cash — and tracking his phone on his ride, not to mention getting a few handy confessions while on the line. The only thing Jesse and accomplices Hank and Gomez didn't count on was Walt's last minute decision to call for backup. Which, really, they kind of should have counted on that… it's what turned Jesse away from last week's ploy. But tensions are high and mistakes are bound to be made. On both sides.
Walt does wrangle the neo Nazis to do his bidding, but only before realizing the team with whom Jesse is saddled. What is most interesting to me about this season is how much humanity we are seeing in Walt. His brother-in-law has turned against him altogether, but Walt still wants to see no harm come to Hank. Even if it means a way out for himself… is this the cancer rewiring him with some empathy? His absence from the game turning him back into some semblance of a human being? Or did Walt always have limits — was his love for his family, the reason he got into this mess in the first place, always going to be prioritized above everything? It's difficult to say, since Walt has acted so selfishly that we might never have predicted to spare anyone, even his wife and children, from his menace. He regularly terrorized Skyler, manipulated Hank, f**ked with his son's head… but as far as their lives are concerned, he does indeed seem to still hold a great deal value there.
At the site of the buried money, Hank arrests Walt, who has attempted to call off the dogs. But they show up — quite promptly, I might add (say what you will about their ideologies, but they sure know how to hit a deadline) — raining blows upon the lot. Hank and Gomez fire back at the troupe while Walt, handcuffed in Hank's truck, tries desperately to institute a ceasefire. Jesse, in Gomey's car, seems intent on making a run for it, but we never see an end to anyone's hopes come to fruition: the episode cuts out mid blitzkrieg with no casualties amounted thus far.
But things are looking grim for Hank and Gomez. After all, just moments before the whole ordeal, Hank dialed Marie to offer up a classic '80s cop movie "We got him. I'll be home real soon. I love you" message, not to mention the fact that a boatload of gun-toting sociopaths coming up dry in taking down two caught-off-guard lawmen — one with a limp — would be pretty unacceptable stuff. Odd to end the episode without finality, but we think that next week will pick up post-mortem for the Albuquerque officers.
As for Walt and Jesse, things seem less certain. Does the latter get away? Is Walt now indebted to Todd's uncle and his men? Are they the folk for whom he picks up that monstrous machine gun in New Hampshire? Are tensions past the point of us ever seeing Skinny Pete again? Heaven forbid.